Saturday night's historic first game by the Missouri Tigers was a lot of fun for the first three quarters, and the Tigers had the opportunity to tie or beat the #7 ranked Bulldogs until the middle of the fourth quarter.
One thing that the game showed was that the Tigers were not in over their head against the SEC talent on the field that is projected to win the SEC East.
The following is what I have taken away from the game two days later and having had the benefit of watching both from the press box and in replay on TV.
The Positive Take Away:
* The Tiger defense came out fired up and ready to play. Despite giving away a significant size difference along the line, the Tigers held there own against the run and put some pressure on Murray in the first half.
* The Tiger linebackers played extremely well throughout the game. Senior linebackers Zaviar Gooden and Will Ebner were big factors early, and led the team in tackles for the game with 8 and 9 on the night. Donovan Bonner had a strong night with 4 tackles, a forced fumble and a INT, as did fellow junior Andrew Wilson with 3 tackles, a forced fumble and a big pass break-up. Gooden's departure from the game had an effect on the defense in the 3rd quarter in my opinion.
* Marcus Lucas continues to get better and showed he could be your go to receiver this season. His 6 catches for 88 yards and a TD was nice. If he had made the TD catch at the end of the first half he would have had an unbelievable night. As it was he was still very good. I think all of the Tiger receivers had pretty good nights. L'Damian Washington needs more touches. So does DGB. And not necessarily on screen passes.
* Hats off to Evan Boehm and Max Copeland doing the tough work against Georgia's massive defensive lineman. I also thought Brad McNulty did a solid job in there at center under tough circumstances, and his snapping was pretty solid. Mitch Morse did an admirable job at RT. He played the position in HS and was converted to center to get his talents on the field as one of their top 5 offensive linemen.
* Shane Ray performed well given his opportunity. The red-shirt freshman showed a glimpse of what still may be to come from him.
* EJ Gaines was tested and showed he was up to the task. Solid play from him with pass break up and altering passes with his coverage.
* Nice to see Madison get off with his 2 QB sacks on Murray.
* The super fast offense moved the ball and tired the Bulldogs at times. I wish the Tigers would have started the game that way and tried to wear them down from the start. James Franklin seems to be most comfortable playing at a faster pace.
The Negative Take Away:
* 4th and 11 fake punt attempt. It really turned the tide in Georgia's favor. It appeared to be a desperate move and the Bulldogs fed off of it. It was only the beginning of the 4th quarter and in bad field position. Luckily, the Tigers escaped only giving away a FG. But the damage was done and the play could have been used on the next drive when they were in Bulldog territory with 4th and 4. Of course, they went for it and Morse was flagged so that killed that drive.
*Inconsistencies, lack of execution, missed assignments and mistakes plagued the Tigers for pretty much the entire game at different times. All of which made winning that much more difficult.
* Lack of scoring punch inside the 30 and red zone.The Tigers left 21 points on the field with their inability to put the ball in the end zone being down in the opponents field. They fumbled on the 9 when they were driving down field. Didn't attack the end zone and had to settle for two FG attempts, one of which was missed. If you count the Lucas missed catch at the end of the first half then you could have seen 28 points left on the field.
* James Franklin needs to play with a greater sense of urgency and make quicker decisions with the ball. He doesn't have the velocity on his passes that other QBs might, so he needs to make a decision and go without taking too much. You saw Bulldog defenders able to break on plays because they were given time.
* It seemed liked the Bulldogs were able to make needed adjustments to the Tiger offense and defense both at the half and during the game on the fly and execute them. The Tigers seemed a little lacking in doing it as quickly being able to execute their adjustments and it burned them. The Bulldogs moved the ball downfield and the Tiger defense seemed to have no answer for them in the 3rd quarter leading to two critical scores to put them up 27-20 to start the 4th quarter.
* Getting the running backs more involved in the offense is something I hope to see more of starting next week.
Final Take Away:
In the end the Tigers were pretty evenly matched against the Bulldogs, minus a couple of future top 5 NFL picks in Jones and Jenkins.
Still, Missouri was in the game heading into the 4th quarter with the chance to tie or win. Mistakes and break downs in the 4th did them in and made the final score look worse then it actually was.
They competed hard and showed that they are indeed SEC worthy. They went toe to toe with the #7 team in the country, and the team predicted to win their division.
Improvements will need to be made in the coming weeks, but it is only game two of the season. There is a lot of football left to be played and a lot of room for improvement as long as they can continue to remain relatively healthy the rest of the way.
They need to be able to play as well as they practice and improve their execution on offense and when making adjustments both on offense and defense.
Offensive Player of the Game
Marcus Lucas – 6 catches for 88 yards and 1 TD
Defensive Player of the Game
Will Ebner – 9 tackles 1 tackle for loss